Remember the badly crime-ridden New York City of the mid-70s? Strikes, chain-snatching, filthy subways, Mayor Beame, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” In 1975, the city ran out of money. It couldn’t pay for day-to-day expenses, it couldn’t borrow more from credit markets, and it was on the brink of declaring bankruptcy.
The person widely credited with preventing the city’s downfall in 1975 is financier and diplomat Felix Rohatyn. He was chair of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which sold bonds to meet the borrowing needs of the city, and he negotiated deals between the city, its labor unions, and its creditors. He was also, from the 1960s to the 1990s, an investment banker on Wall Street, mostly at Lazard, and he served as an ambassador to France under the Clinton Administration. Rohatyn died in 2019 at the age of 91.
He and his second wife Elizabeth lived in traditional, low-key elegance in this full-floor co-op apartment on a high-nosed stretch of Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 62nd Street, which Rohatyn bought back in the early 1980s for around $2 million. Now available for $19.8 million via John Burger at Brown Harris Stevens, the Rohatyns’ city-view unit carries monthly maintenance of $12,663. And, as Tom Wolfe put it, “Good New York Buildings” don’t allow financing, so the buyer needs deep pockets. Indeed, former residents have included Nelson Rockefeller, William Randolph Hearst, and Richard Nixon, while more recent residents number David Geffen and Charles Bronfman.
Clad in elegant limestone, the white-glove building was built in 1926, and the 3,875-square-foot, four-bedroom and four-and-a-half-bath apartment retains much of its prewar configuration. Separate wings for entertainment, bedrooms and staff all open from an entrance gallery accessed via a private elevator landing. Many original details also remain, including polished herringbone parquet floors, high ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, decorative millwork and large windows.
The décor, however, looks more like a time capsule from the 1980s, with potted orchids, gilt mirrors, and pink bullion fringe on floral-patterned chairs. Gilt framed Impressionist paintings are icing on the ’80s cake and, on a personal note, we are relieved to note that the library is filled with books that seem like they were actually read, and that they’re not arranged in a rainbow of color.
Of course, such a premium Upper East Side spot includes premium views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. The two main rooms are the living room and library, which both face the park, and there’s also an ample formal dining room, which does not. Nearby are a windowed eat-in-kitchen and a butler’s pantry. The master suite includes two bathrooms and two dressing rooms. There’s also a nearby study and two more guest bedrooms as well as a large staff/laundry room.
Much of the apartment is not pictured in the listing; we assume it’s suffering from a bad case of the 80s. Still, anyone interested in living in an elite neighborhood that oozes with old-school elegance, and who is willing to spend the dough to bring the flat into the new millennium, can do far worse than this place. And, when it’s all done, be sure to add a potted orchid or two for that wink-wink whiff of the 80s.